Today’s post is unashamedly for authors - which, as I tell kids on my school visits, is all of us. So let me narrow it down a little: today’s post is for published authors. Or self-published authors. Or people who would like some day to be published or self-published authors…
Oh. Still haven’t narrowed it down much. Okay; perhaps it would be better if I told you what this post’s going to be about. Today, I would like to give a shout-out to the Society of Authors. Hello, everyone at the Society! *waves*
I remember the first time I spoke to someone at the Society. I can’t remember who had suggested I join them - it might well have been my editor - but I was very hesitant. As I recall, the conversation went something like this:
VOICE ON PHONE: Hello! Society of Authors! How can I help?
ME: [nervously] Um… hello. I’m… well, I’m not sure if I’m eligible for, um, membership or anything, but, well, someone suggested I talk to you…
VOICE: [encouraging noises]
ME: I mean… I haven’t had anything published yet, but, well, I have a contract for a, um, children’s book with Random House…
VOICE: [cheerily] Oh, well, you’re certainly eligible for membership, then. Let me talk you through it…
Actually, they almost certainly didn’t say ‘Let me talk you through it,’ because there’s not much to be talked through; joining the Society is pretty simple. Anyway, the point is that the Society of Authors is much more inclusive than its slightly grand-sounding name and Kensington address might make you think. There are two levels of membership - full member and associate - but aside from the right to vote on or stand in council & committee elections, there’s really no difference between the two. And you’re eligible for associate membership if you’ve had an offer from an agent or a publisher, or if you've self-published. The Society really is for all authors.
Now, other organisations for authors are available, and I’d encourage you to join as many of them as you like - I’m very glad, for instance, to belong to the Scattered Authors’ Society - but whichever other writers’ organisations you belong to, I really, really recommend that, if you’re eligible, you join the Society. You see, although it’s great that there are other organisations for networking and professional development, that’s not all the Society provides.
It’s our trade union. It fights for us. It campaigns for writers, and for the book. It protects us and our rights. If you’ve been offered a contract - whether by an agent, a publisher, or someone who wants to adapt your work for another medium - the Society’s legal team will look at it for you, and give you free legal advice. If you’re not sure what your rights as an author are, the Society will happily tell you. And it will help whether you’re just starting out, or have been published for decades.
I’m almost at the end of my term as chair of CWIG - the Society’s Children’s Writers & Illustrators Group - and if there’s one thing I’ve learned serving on the CWIG committee, it’s that the people who work for the Society of Authors are good people who work very hard for all of us. So I hope you’ll join me in thanking them, and if you're not a member, I hope you’ll join us by clicking on this link.
John's Stinkbomb & Ketchup-Face series, illustrated by David Tazzyman, is published by OUP.
John has been a CWIG committee member since November 2010, and chair since November 2013.